Monday, October 22, 2012

Toronto After Dark 2012: My Thoughts on Doomsday Book

Doomsday BookDoomsday Book is a Korean sci-fi anthology film directed by Yim Pil-sung (Hansel & Gretel) and Kim Jee-woon (I Saw the Devil).  The film features three stories, each of which covers different apocalyptic scenarios: a zombie uprising, sentient robots, and finally a meteor on a collision course to earth.  One impression I got from the film is that, even though the film is about the end of the world, it takes a somewhat light-hearted approach (especially with the segments directed by Yim Pil-sung).  That said, the fact that the film is not super depressing probably helped with my enjoyment of the film. 

At this point, I would like to go into a bit more detail into each of the segments.

A Brave New WorldDirected by Yim Pil-sung

In the first segment of Doomsday Book, a military researcher comes home to house-sit for his vacationing family.  He is asked to take out the garbage, which includes an apple, which is rotting in an unusual way.  The garbage is taken to the plant and converted into feed for livestock.  The researcher happens to ingest the contaminated meat while he is on a date and it results in him getting an infection, which results in him becoming increasingly more violent (and zombie-like).

If you are familiar with zombie films, than you will probably have a good idea how this segment turns out.  In essence, the infection quickly spreads and soon the entire city is pretty much zombified.  However, Yim Pil-sung injects some humour and even romance into this situation.  There’s section in which two members of opposing political parties have a debate about the outbreak and it quickly turns into a hostile blame game with outrageous accusations about where the infection originated from.  There’s also the humourously touching moment when the researcher and his date are reunited, even though both are now zombies.

I would probably say that A Brave New World was probably the weakest of the three segments, but it was still an interesting take on a zombie outbreak that did not rely on constant blood and gore (even though there is still some of that).

The Heavenly CreatureDirected by Kim Jee-woon

I will say straight out that that I thought that The Heavenly Creature was the best of the three segments and I can even say that it would have made an excellent stand-alone short film.  This story takes place in a world in which robots have integrated into society, as either helpers, pets, or even spouses (a news broadcast states that reproduction is at all-time lows because young people are choosing robots over marriage).  A technician is brought into a Buddhist temple to examine a humanoid robot that has gained the ability to think on its own and even thinks that it is Buddha.  The technician does not know what to do about this robot and the head of the company is called in to exterminate the robot.

Even though this segment is extremely dialogue-heavy, it is also very intriguing in how it goes into both sides of the ethical dilemma involving sentient robots.  Despite the fact that this robot seems peaceful and even prays with the other monks, the company head does not want it to remain in operation in fear of the possible consequences of having sentient robots walking the earth.  I thought that this segment was really well done and it does end up fitting well in the apocalyptic theme of the film (though not in the way you might expect).

Happy Birthday – Directed by Yim Pil-sung

Despite having the most dire apocalyptic scenario, that being a meteor speeding towards the Earth, Happy Birthday is actually the most light-hearted and comedic of the three segments.  It is also the most sci-fi of the segments and, even though I do not want to reveal the exact details, it involves a family who have gone into hiding in an underground shelter (and a girl whose birthday it happens to be).  Much of the humour in this segment comes from many pre-apocalyptic TV broadcasts.  These broadcasts include everything from infomercials for a shelter pod that don’t quite work and a depressingly sombre news anchor, who uses the final broadcast to confess personal secrets. 

Because of how light-hearted the segment is, it actually helped to end the film on a bit of a high note.  This is also the segment that goes to the furthest with Doomsday Book’s apocalyptic premise, to the point that there’s even a glimpse of the post-apocalyptic world.

Overall, while Doomsday Book was a more light-hearted apocalyptic film than I expected it do be, I still found that I overall enjoyed this anthology.

8 | LIKED IT